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Wednesday, 15 August 2007


...possibly Cate Blanchett? A cleaned-up Courtney Love? My seventh grade English teacher?

Looks like Cate Blanchett.

Hysterical. The funny thing is the body "lift" that the young ladies get (ribs, who needs 'em?) . . . funny, scary, very revealing. Personally, I don't think any set of retouching tools is going to change my shape from "yam-like" .

Ben Marks

I'm guessing Cate Blanchett.
And the main problem I have with celebrity photo retouching is not so much that it's dishonest (anybody with any media awareness knows that all celebrity pics are photoshopped) but that it's boring. Every retoucher, including the one you referred us to, uses the same techniques so every portrait ends up having a similar look, with fake skin tone, exaggerated figures, spooky eyes, etc.

Yep, that's Cate Blanchett--a pretty fair actress.

The process seems to remove all trace of character from these people.

I remember reading a quote from Tyra Banks sometime ago in which she said she used to diet and train to get in shape for photo shoots but she no longer worried about it since Photoshop came along.

It's a brave new world a-comin'. The only reality is the illusion.

That's fascinating! In the Cameron Diaz photograph, the retoucher eliminated her oblique muscles. As a long-time weightlifter/bodybuilder, I wouldn't have done that. There seems to be social commentary occurring with some of the changes.

Retouching the odd photo is one thing but do they retouch entire movies? Quite often I could swear that some actors' faces are retouched while other aren't, all in the same film.

Most of the male photographs were headshots but I would have liked to see more full body shots to compare retouching of men vs retouching of women. As it was, it seemed the women got a lot more treatment with the old Photoshop liquifier. I did notice one fellow's biceps were slightly enlarged though. What a world!

I'm waiting for that day in the future when the larger public wakes up to all these photos of poreless faces with eyelifts and chuckles at them the way we now look back and bluescreen effects from the 60's and 70's. The skin doesn't look airbrushed, it looks sandblasted and buffed with a floorwaxer.

Cate Blanchet, and she's beautiful anyway.

She's more beautiful in the unretouched version, to my eye. But that gets back to what we've been talking about over the past few days. Just my taste.

This dates me, but to me she sort of looked like Charlotte Rampling.


Take a look at this little film:


A response for Muscatinho: You wrote that the tools used to retouch celebrity glamor shots enforce a certain sort of aesthetic. I think you're undercutting the creativity and talent demonstrated by high quality retouching. Blame for the homogeneity of celebrity portraiture should lie squarely on what the publicists request, what the public expects, and, more broadly, on what our culture calls beautiful. The tools--lightening and darkening, cloning, liquifying, color correction, etc.--are just the same tools we might use on any other heavily modified image, even a landscape. The end result is only limited by how creatively you use the tools.

That said, these do look pretty rote. I blame the photography more than the retouching, though. :)

(A note about my cred: I worked as a celebrity retoucher for a bit more than a year before I got tired of wasting my Art and making fourteen year olds anorexic.)

What's funny is not that they retouch bad skin or "big" butt, but that they do a part of the work the photographer should have done. Frex, lots of bags under the eyes could have been avoided by better lighting.

BTW, if you want retouching, or better to say, makeovers, check http://www.briandilg.com/imaging/ or http://homepage.mac.com/gapodaca/digital/digital.html. These guys really know their job.

(Lars means the "Evolution Film" at the link, and it is indeed a must-see, especially anyone with an interest in fashion photography or portraiture. (Or anyone with a daughter.) We've linked it before in the past, but it's good to point it out again, so, thanks, Lars.)


That site should be required viewing for all teenagers, girls in particular. It's no wonder they have unrealistic body-image expectations.

Pretty soon, we won't even need a real photo. Every celebrity will come with a 3d software model that can be posed in-computer, rendered, and none of that time-taking actual photoshoot stuff is needed.

And then not long after that the computer models will work better in the movies than the actual actor - we're getting closer and closer to that point - and the actors will only be needed for the voices. And how long will we need even that?


About the photoshopping out of the muscle definition on Cameron Diaz; it's part of the huge denial machine about being Hollywood Thin - that it comes naturally to these people, rather than being a wholly rigorous procedure of diet and exercise that takes a huge amount of time and effort. Many can only keep that thin by keeping their body fat percentage so low that they start having the muscle definition like pro bodybuilders, but that's considered 'unfeminine' and thus hidden.

I first saw this site mentioned on a blog a few months ago. It seems slightly hokey to me. I haven't tried to contact them, but here's the odd thing: they don't have anyone listed under "clients". They haven't for months. Which makes me wonder, where did they get all these "before" pictures to touch up? And what serious business like this would run Google ads on their homepage?

Also, the customer quotes are either from people with very common names (Judy Jensen) or names that only yield two hits on Google, which is quite a feat in itself (Liere Lupez, Mycah McAl).

This in itself proves nothing. There are things about the site that seem odd to me, but it could just be me. And, it's worth noting, it doesn't really matter if this site itself represents a legitimate business or not: there are obviously companies and people that do this sort of thing and there is definitely a demand for this sort of work. I just wonder if this site itself isn't somewhat of an exaggeration designed to grab traffic.

Pretty soon you won't even need a real celebrity -- they'll be computer-generated from the get-go. So much easier to manage the publicity, the after-hours activities, the diva/divo act, the weight gain. I'd say we're half way there in terms of re-touching practice and about a third of the way there in terms of the software/hardware requirements. Superstar v. 1.01.

Mike - you live in a bubble down there... ;-)

Do you watch movies at all? You've never seen:

The Good German


The Aviator

Lord of the Rings

Pushing Tin

The Talented Mr. Ripley


among many others??

A lot of comments on this topic here and in other places seem to deplore the fact that Hollywood and the publishing media cater to unrealistic ideals, that the industry somehow knuckles under to the sponsors. I don't see it this way. The ONLY reason that entire machinery exists in the first place is to make us buy stuff. And making us feel inadequate in the first step in the long march to the checkout.

The real product ARE the commercials. The shows, the movies, the sitcoms, the football games are filler.

Well Matthew, at this point I don't think celebs are more interesting than 3d computer models. They're all the same. Branding the look and personality that are in fashion in Hollywood. Most movies look like cartoons allready, but let's not get into that... I'll grant Mike's wish and end the truth vs. manipulated debate.

Ironically I think the one of Cameron Diaz *is* an improvement, but hey... the rest, yes, I prefer the originals. ;)

Actually, looking at these the first thing that comes to mind is that, if the intention was to produce these final products, all the shots are underexposed at source.

If you want to see less subtle "airbrushing:
I would love to see these before-after shots shown to girls with alimentary disorders.
People REALLY think celebrities are like that in reality (no human, with pore-less skins)

cate blanchet looks much better in the original picture, sad sad world

"Do you watch movies at all?"

In my youth I was a movie freak--probably saw 2-4 movies a week (in theatres) all the way through college and 1-3 per week for a number of years afterwards. Sometimes around the time "Risky Business" came out I just started to lose interest. Still don't really know why--I guess they just stopped surprising me, or challenging me, or they stopped seeming edgy or functioning like art for me. I don't know, really. More recently there have been whole calendar years when I've seen as few as 4 movies the whole year.

I've never seen any of the movies you mentioned.

I'm sure some of it is the delivery system. I just do not like to watch movies on the TV (i.e., videos, DVDs). I don't like multiplexes, and I do NOT like audience who carry on and talk and answer their cell phones and (especially) talk back to the screen like they're at home alone with five beers in 'em. Puh-LEEZ.


Unfortunately my ancient retouching manuals are packed up at the moment after moving to a new apartment, but I have one manual from the 1940s that has a great demo image of a gentleman with an artificially pockmarked face, lazy eye, finger sticking up awkwardly, various blemishes, hair unkempt, and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, all repaired with pencil, abrasion, and knife on the negative.

There is also a good pair of before and after retouching shots of Joan Crawford in Mark Vieira's _Hurrell's Hollywood Portraits_. Hurrell preferred for his subjects to have clean skin with makeup only on the eyes and lips and no base makeup to cover the natural glow of clean skin. Blemishes would be removed with extensive retouching.

To retouch upon a recurring theme in these posts: those "after" photos remind me a lot of the characters in the movie "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within", who were all 3D-rendered computer animations. These results look far less human than the fictional starlet in the film "S1m0ne", who we were supposed to believe was computer generated.

So we come a twisted half-circle, or something like that. But to want to do this to a beautiful face like Cate Blanchette's is a bit demented.

Tim: I suspect the "before" photos may have been darkened for the portfolio, to make them less appealing and to bring out blemishes (cf. the O.J. Newsweek cover).

Hm, Did I just suggested that the "unretouched" photos may have been retouched? Oh, my head.

Mike, re the model retouching. I remember some interviews I saw with Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet. Both of them said they didnt approve of the extraordinary photo manipulation of their images... and that it was essentially out of their hands. I wonder if they would be brave enough to insist on 'real' pictures... or is there to much money involved?
Then of course the old can of worms about 'how much is enough' comes up. Factor in designers, makeup artists, photographers etc etc and it becomes a very big can of worms indeed.
Perhaps a variation of the old: 'Gee... you look much taller on TV' thing might help. How about: 'My... you sure look bloody ugly in real life!' In world obsessed with artiface - which seems to be fundamentally and delusionally entrenched - it aint gonna change anytime soon methinks. In the end it stops with us. WE are the market for this stuff after all.
Dennis F.

I'm wondering where they got the before images? Most if not all have terrible exposure and lighting. Better lighting and photographic technique would eliminate much of the need for their software.

I have to agree with some of the other comments here, Cate Blanchett looks better in the untouched photo.

These days when looking at magazine covers, I am struck by how unbelievably fake all the women look. I saw a cover shot of Catherine Zeta Jones the other day that had been so modified that the only reason you could tell it was her, is because the magazine cover said so!

They end up looking more like mannequins than people and I have no idea why this is considered appealing.

"Pretty soon you won't even need a real celebrity -- they'll be computer-generated from the get-go."

It's been done. It was a movie with Al Pacino. Quite okay. A trailer is here:


I was thinking of Uma Thurman. I was so wrong.

Women portrait retouching is becoming a norm locally in all magazine/newspaper pictures. It's sad. Beauty is no longer found in nature, it's found in bits and pieces.

I kinda agree that photography is dead.

Anybody that has ever seen one of those bad Makeover programs knows that they make those chosen look as bad as possible in order to make the transformation look more spectacular. Peculiar in this case

I've had the pleasure of seeing Cate in the flesh. It would be damn hard to make her look bad. she's much more beautiful then the before or after shots suggest. She has that old school Hollywood look. Which is why she was chosen to play Katherine Hepburn in the Aviator (along with being a fine actor). I also prefer the before shot but it doesn't do her justice.

It's nice to know, that there still exist someone who prefers un-airbrushed photos over the airbrushed ones. Personally I just hate all this vivid colours and "reshaped" breasts, noses, necks, legs etc.
Some time ago at one of the polish internet galleries a photographer posted two photos. They were actually the same photograph, it was nice nude and I liked it. The only difference was that on the one of the photos the model wore some jewellery, which was removed on the second one.
Sadly, the reaction of the commenters was only "I prefer the version with the jewellary (or the opposite)".
I commented, that don't like such "photoshoping", and if the photographer wanted the photo without jewellery he could... well, just ASK his model to take it off (he was shooting with the DSLR so even making two version should be simple). But then the reaction of other commenters was something like "It's THE ART! So ANY change is OK!". From that moment, although I'm only 27 years old, and work in high-tech science I feel "obsolete".

They even do this on moving footage these days.

A few years ago a company I worked for in L.A. did some serious beauty work on a famous againg pop star, who did a special from Hawaii. Wrinkle removal, tummy tuck, the works. Totally ridiculous. At some point in your life you simply have to face the fact that you are too old to run aroud dressed like you are 18.

At one point I bid a 'neck replacement' for a super famous male actor, whc's getting up there in age and now has a turkey neck. Frankly if he went to the gymn and lost a few pounds none of that would have been an issue.

The list goes on and on and it's absolute nonsense. I know that Hurrell did a lot of retouching, but he wasn't rebuilding people's bodies and changing their anatomy. Nobody looks like that and the vast majority of these people don't look anything like their pctures when you meet them in person.

As it has been mentioned earlier, it's having a very bad effect on young girls and even young guys are starting to take steroids to get that super ripped look. I used to work next store to Gold's Gym in Venice, California and frankly the only way to look like these beefcake types on the cover of 'health' magazines is if you live in the gym, do steroids, have phenominal genetics or are photoshopped into shape.

I seem to recall one of Scott Kelby's Photoshop books showing how this kind of retouching is carried out. Useful if you want to please the wife! However, I'm with you Mike as regards muliplexes. I only watch films at home now as cinema audiences are often louder than the film! Wouldn't it be great if cinemas could install jamming devices for mobile phone signals!

Jeff H.

i was thinking the same thing, some of those photographs are aweful.


can we cover those before-after photos on weightloss pills next?

>I'm wondering where they got the before images? Most >if not all have terrible exposure and lighting. >Better lighting and photographic technique would >eliminate much of the need for their software.

There are a lot of hacks out there and Hollywood tries to do everything as cheap as they possibly can.

The prevalent attitude of many shooters (especially the young ones) is that they think they can fix everything later on in PS, as long as they get it 70% right during the shoot. But you know what they say, garbage in, garbage out.

I agree with you... I prefer the originals. Oh, most of us have "touched-up" a face here and there to help skin tones, removed blemishes, etc. (especially when I'm the one who didn't get the lighting/composition/color/etc. right to begin with). I see (the girl with the magenta top and jeans) where they actually altered the contour of her body shape. If I were her, I would have been offended (unless she requested it). I can't see anything wrong with the way she looked originally. The longer I do photography, the more I lean toward monotone and leaving things the way they were (and trying to get my part right when I take the shot!).
I really like your website.
Bill Corbett

I wanted to add one quick comment to my earlier post. I agree with those that feel some of those shots "before" could have been better, and I would venture to say that perhaps they actually were... perhaps they were not presented in their "best light" in the comparison ads? We can't know, I guess, after all it's the difference they want to show.
Bill Corbett

I am new to your blog. I ran across it somehow in an attempt to get information on apodization filters, or "bokeh", probably both. I forget.

You're now on my tool-bar, and I've been reading you and your fellow contributors every day, 100%, of the time, for three full days in a row :-)

To the topic at hand:
I do remember that the back-side of 4X5 Super XX film was usually gotten with a tooth, suitable for penciling-out objectionable details. My guess is that if God (the "Yellow God", Kodak) wanted people, and other objects to appear not as Nature intended, S/He would have never invented film in the first place. Or even paint, for that matter.

It once was rare and lovely to be well fed. But, to be "Rubenesque" today has become an insult (sorry, McDonald's).

It seems that Monet was nearsighted. If so, than his paintings were actually quite representational (to him). I'm somewhat colorblind, so my printed greens tend to stand out. Is that wrong? Only my spouse seems to be the least bit aware of this anomaly. I'm not, though I wish I were :-)

Should we scrub our skins white with arsenic, so that we will appear to never have ever had to work outdoors. Or, should we pay our hard earned money to lay under UV lamps, so that it appears that we've been on some nearly constant vacation? Should we wear braces on our teeth? Do I dare to eat a peach?

An interesting topic. But, I think subjective realities are always so... you know... subjective :-)

As a quick introduction, My main interest is in single lens 3-D. In other words, I use the foreground "bokah", vs., the background bokah to record three-dimensional information.

> Still don't really know why--I guess they just stopped surprising me, or challenging me, or they stopped seeming edgy or functioning like art for me.

I belive, the wide European production can let some fresh air in.
Highly recomend that.

>I don't like multiplexes, and I do NOT like audience who carry on and talk and answer their cell phones

I hope it's a huge exaggeration, I do not visit multiplexes, so have no idea what is going on there, but I do belive people wouldn't do that in the theatre.
Anyway, I don't think you could find any european movie in the multiplex, so you're on the win win position!

I ahve to admit, I had to chuckle when I noticed them adding weight and volume (i.e. Eva Longoria's thighs)!

As has been pointed out it is Cate Blanchett in the example (wonderful actress) who is, by all accounts, even more luminous in person than she is on film.

Why is everyone so surprised by this? After all, these are mostly fashion and "lifestyle" magazines, whose job is to make everything look wonderful, including its cover subjects. These actresses and models come in varying degrees of perfection, so the mags use photoshop to help them along and push their version of reality.

I find these photos a little suspicious. Some of the originals are really lousy photos, and a lot of the "problems" could have been taken care of with better lighting or makeup. I have a feeling that the company did that deliberately so the the corrected photos would look more dramatic.

Today's models are SO thin, that photoshop people have to blow up their arms and thighs!

Someone asked but nobody answered...is it possible to do body retouching in the movies? I mean I have seen a video clip of Madonna where she was looking 20 years old. How is it possible? More then that I have seen an actress with huge breasts in the movies but without them in other clips... It is really confusing!!

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